Madison Avenue is one of Manhattan's famed north-south boulevards. While it fits with the borough's grid system of roads established in the 1811 "Commissioner's Plan", it was not part of the original plan, and was constructed in 1836, between Fifth Avenue/Central Park East to the west and Park Avenue to the east. The Avenue begins at 23rd Street, along the east side of Madison Square, from which it draws its name, and extends northward to West 138th Street, where the Madison Avenue Bridge spans the Harlem River diagonal to the grid, linking up with East 138th in the Bronx. Madison Avenue is a one-way street, with an uptown (south to north) vehicular flow. Motorists should take care not to confuse Madison Avenue with Madison Street, which parallels the East River near the Williamsburg Bridge in pre-grid Lower Manhattan.

Madison Avenue has been host to a wide variety of tenants through the years, including a number of major business headquarters, and at street level is known for its fashionable boutiques. However, its most popular identification is with several major advertising firms who, starting in the 1920s and '30s, established themselves in its office towers. This connection has become so well-ingrained in the public consciousness that, like Wall Street with finance or K Street with lobbying, the term "Madison Avenue" is now commonly used to refer to the U.S. advertising industry as a whole.

When people used to use 'Madison Avenue' as a pejorative, it referred to the advertising bigwigs, the people sitting behind massive mahogany desks and finding new ways to fleece Willie Loman out of his barely-earned, newly minted coin.

But then the neighborhood changed, and 'Madison Avenue' became a pejorative buzzword for things that were both trendy and utterly unnecessary - soap made from hand-cleansed lavender, small ebony meditation stones that came (and stayed) in velvet-lined boxes, The Sharper Image. Stuff like that.

And as the trendy moved farther and farther south on the island, the advertisers moved with it, trying to recapture the glory days of god knows what. Now, there are as many small, nimble advertising companies in the West Village than there are monolithic ones on Madison, and even those are desperately trying to get away from that bad-boy image, trying to appear like they're in touch with the people who live here. Companies moved from Madison uptown to Park Ave south - 'south' in Manhattan is synonymous with youth, with vigor, with all that's in and nothing that's not. The power is shifting ever so slowly to the parts of the island that advertisers have more or less ignored for the last fifty years because the big money lives somewhere else. What they're realising is that those people that they've ignored for so long, the people who live, work, and breathe below 14th street, the people who didn't have any money before, have all grown up and, unlike the previous generation who lived in the Village, went to school, grew up, got money and moved uptown, these people are staying put.

In between all this, between the old ad money and the new both ideologically and geographically, are the marketers. Not only can I see the top of the Empire State Building from my office window, I can see the flashbulbs going off on its observation deck. Old New York. Or I can walk ten blocks south and immerse myself in the Village, same as it ever was, with its hucksters and its cheap vodka and its crowded, sweaty hum.

I work for the old and work with the new, like keeping a flask in the hip pocket of your suit. Welcome to the shadow of Madison Avenue.

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